Next month, the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago will open a new retrospective of Greek-American artist George Kokines’ work.
Kokines, who passed away in 2012, was well known in Chicago and New York as an active painter, particularly throughout the 70s when he worked in Soho artists’ bars.
In later life he was a first-hand witness to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York. His paintings from that event, which were among Kokines’ final works, were shown together in 2011 in Elgin, Illinois. Kokines described them as “a memorial, not an autopsy. I didn’t want to be in the disaster business.” His painting, Agios Nikolaos, represented the small Greek Orthodox church that also stood at Ground Zero.
On Sept. 20, the National Hellenic Museum’s exhibition will trace Kokines’ artistic development and accomplishments in Abstract Expressionism as well as his journey to embrace his Greek-American identity.
In 1993, Kokines traveled through Greece, making stops at his parents’ hometowns on a trip that allowed him to connect his history and artwork to ancient Greece.
Kokines was born in 1930 in Chicago to Greek immigrant parents. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earning a BFA in 1960. Early in his career he received critical acclaim and was a prominent figure in the Chicago art community. Once the subject of controversy, he said: “All contemporary painting should defy description.”